2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Meet the Gear Test Crew

We pulled these four guys off the streets, eh, the trail, to test some of the compelling and crazy products that come across our desks everyday.

by: Ben Fullerton, Joe Flowers, Joel Nyquist, and Will Rochfort

Ben Fullerton
Vital stats: 6'7"; 220 lbs.; 23" torso
Home turf: Boulder, CO

From just about the time I could walk, it was clear that I was only interested in being in the outdoors. I grew up in the wooded Northwest corner of Connecticut and began my outdoor life on family camping trips and youth group hiking trip to New Hampshire's White Mountains.

I am now an active hiker, backpacker, camper, and an obsessive rock and ice climber and mountaineer. I also make my living as an outdoor/adventure sports photographer ( Whether working or playing, I’m pretty much always outside (averaging over 100 days a year abusing gear in one form or another). Which bring us to the other thing about me that was apparent from a young age: I break things. A lot. No gear of mine has ever had an easy life, whether it's a pair of pants, a stove, or an expensive camera. When I'm out bagging peaks, climbing walls, or trying to capture beautiful imagery, there's just no room in my pack for things that can't take a beating and still perform. So, if something survived ten rounds in the ring with me, you know you can trust it!

Joe Flowers
Vital stats: 5’ 9”; 165 lbs.; 19.5" torso length;
Home turf: Sparta, NC

I am a passionate backpacker who loves woods walking, catching critters and testing gear—preferably all three at the same time!  I have a degree in Zoology with a minor and emphasis in Entomology, so I spend lots of time hiking where the creepy crawlies live. Through my travels around the US and South America, I’ve had a chance to learn all sorts of camping and survival skills, and I like to share them. I teach survival skills, fitness classes, martial arts, and I run outdoor camps for kids and adults at Alleghany Wellness Center (

I also have a serious passion for outdoor tools, especially knives. I’ve written for a number of magazines such as Tactical Knives and SWAT, and,  and I consult and design for several knife companies including TOPS knives and Condor Knife and Tool. My biggest backpacking pet peeve is when a fellow backpacker doesn’t even bring a small Swiss Army Knife or duct tape! You can fix just about anything with these two items and a bit of ingenuity!

Joel Nyquist
Vital stats: 6’2”; 165 lbs.; 21.5” torso;
Home turf: South Riding, VA

I’m an avid backpacker, skier, bicyclist, snowshoer, and aspiring mountaineer.  I suffer from what you might call “paralysis by analysis”. I’ve always envied those people who can walk into a store, buy something, and be done. But I’m an engineer by education and employment, and I take those skills and apply them to my outdoor shopping experience. I start off by researching online for a few weeks, then going to three to four stores to compare prices and grill salespeople. When I finally make a purchase, I’m often struck with buyer’s remorse, in which case return the item (unused, of course!), and get something else, based on another round of research.

My methodical approach to gear analysis and selection is why BACKPACKER hired me. Whether it’s for a backpack, a pair of boots, or even a tent stake, I’ll do the analysis for you. I’ll do the comparison shopping. And I’ll do the field testing to let you know exactly why and how a product works.

Will Rochfort
Vital Stats: 6’0”; 175 lbs.; 18.5” torso
Home Turf: San Diego, CA

Although the mailing address for my two-bedroom, two-story gear closet is in San Diego, my outdoor adventures–backpacking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, climbing–cover a large swath of the southwestern US.  I run twelve to fifteen trips per year (check out my website at )—there are very few things more enjoyable to me than taking someone out on their first real backcountry experience.

My personal backpacking career started after my second (of three) major knee surgeries. My doctor told me to choose a new sport, and when I picked up a copy of BACKPACKER during physical therapy, I was instantly hooked.  Six months later I set off into the wilderness with a kit that included a brand new pair of running shoes, a borrowed tent, athletic warm-ups, and (despite BP’s warnings) two 100% cotton sweatshirts.  I even carried in ten liters of water because I thought that might be easier than spending the time to research the differences between water filters and purifiers. Suffice it to say, I learned a lot of lessons about gear the hard way.

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Sep 23, 2012

Rob- Did you not see that one of the guys is 6'7" (220 lbs) and another is 6'2"?
Part of the reason is also that manufacturers don't make demo sizes in a wide variety, so in order to get gear tested before it comes out you have to be more in the middle.

Sep 23, 2011

It severely disappoints me to not see someone of diminutive or substantial size in your group. Do you really believe that all outdoor adventurers are above 5 foot 9, or slender in build?
As a avid enthusiast and backcountry maniac, I have always found it hard to find a "real" reviewer, i.e. someone like me. I am 6 foot, 225 lbs and built like a tank.
You really need to do a better job of finding folks with a wider variety of sizes. I bet not even one person has a shoe size over 13, or a waist above 35...
Shame on you Backpacker, shame on you.

Apr 22, 2010

Check the bylines in most of the reviews/articles. Most of the gear articles/editors are women.

Apr 20, 2010

Chris, Most of the editing staff, including the senior gear testers, are all women.

Apr 19, 2010

Glad to see new testers, sad to see there are no women represented...No offense guys, but sometimes a woman needs another woman's opinion. Hopefully backpacker will realize their mistake and find some women to become gear testers (I'll even offer to do it myself!)


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

The Political Arena
Ebola breakout
Posted On: Aug 30, 2014
Submitted By: dayhiker9
Trailhead Register
Who's Working this weekend...?
Posted On: Aug 30, 2014
Submitted By: swimswithtrout

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions